It may be close to six years since their last Guinness Six Nations win, but Garry Ringrose is adamant that Italy have all the tools required to pose a difficult challenge for Ireland in Rome this Saturday.
Under the guidance of Jacques Brunel, the Azzurri defeated Scotland in Edinburgh in February 2015. Two years earlier, the French native was also at the helm when Italy overcame an injury-ravaged Ireland in a Six Nations final round clash on home soil.
They have endured a host of disappointing results in the Championship in recent years, but Ringrose has often been forced to dig deep against Italian opposition at both provincial and international level.
With this in mind, he stressed that Ireland cannot afford to be overly cavalier in their approach this weekend when the teams lock horns at the Stadio Olimpico.
“I’m thinking of the cliche or the phrase, ‘fortune favours the brave’, to a certain extent. You have to play with intent,” insisted the Leinster centre.
“Firstly, I wouldn’t perceive Italy as, despite the results, being a particularly weak team by any stretch of the imagination.
“From the experience of playing against Treviso and being involved in incredibly tough games with them of late and obviously against Italy as well.
“You do back yourself and based on the pictures you might see, you want to play with that intent to back yourself. It shouldn’t take away from where you see the space.
You never want to go into a game and overplay against any opposition and gamble, and come out the wrong side of it. Obviously winning is the goal for us. It’s finding the best, most effective way to do that.
“That will be based on how we prepare, some of the pictures they present to us, how they attack. How we can go after them defensively. Equally, some of the pictures they present defensively, how we can go after them in attack.
“It’s a balance of you’re getting your whole game together as opposed to, ‘we’re going to risk and gamble’. Because I think that would be a recipe for disaster against a team that are quality.”
It has been a difficult start to this year’s Championship for Ireland, with narrow losses to Wales and France currently leaving them fifth in the table.
Ringrose and his team-mates are working hard to try and rectify the mistakes that were made in their two games to date, and their impending showdown with the Italians is a perfect opportunity to try and put things right.
“Tough coming off the back of two tight losses. Games where there were opportunities there to go and win the game, so it’s always frustrating coming away from that,” admitted the 26-year-old.
“Whether on an individual level, if you had done one or two things differently, could that have changed the outcome or would that have changed the outcome?
“Frustration, I don’t like using that word because that means you carry that with you. We try and stay in the moment and be better in the moment.
“It’s to take as many learnings as possible from the game and try and get better. That’s what we’re doing here. Everyone is working incredibly hard to try and get better.
“Try and learn from those instances (against Wales and France), where we maybe didn’t take the opportunities that were presented to us.”
In recent days, Ireland coaches Andy Farrell and Mike Catt have spoken about the need for the team to have clearer communication on the field and to display a greater level of decision making in key moments.
Ringrose acknowledges there are areas of the game they need to work on in the coming weeks as they seek to climb up the Six Nations standings and finish the tournament on a high.
“It’s really important and with the games, they’re won and lost on such fine margins. You can’t really afford to switch off for a moment or have a lapse in concentration.
“It starts with the individual being in the right place and seeing the pictures. The next layer to that is communicating so you can have that easy sort of cohesiveness in how you attack or defend.
“Whether you win or lose, there’s things you are always looking for opportunities to improve on. Unfortunately we’ve come off the back of two losses, but there’s still loads of instances like that, where I know we’re trying unbelievably hard to get better at and improve on.”
Although the margin of defeat was just two points in the end (15-13), Farrell’s men were quick to accept that France were deserving winners of their round encounter on St. Valentine’s Day.
The video review highlighted that the French had chances to add to the two tries they did register and Ringrose believes being honest about their performances can help the Irish squad to improve going forward.
“The first lineout of the second half, where they passed the ball off the head. If that had gone to hand they’re walking in for a try,” he added.
We don’t shy away from those moments of where we could be better and where France could have scored. Even some of the decision making defensively, where we maybe didn’t concede a try, but where we weren’t dominant in how we defended.
“Certainly that’s what a lot of the review process is. It’s looking at what you can do better as a team and you can obviously put more points on the board.
“Equally, where they got their points from, but then also opportunities they missed. That would be an important part of our review processes.
“If they had been better in one or two areas, would we have been able to counteract that? That would be something we’d look hard at as well.”